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Last Updated: Friday, 16 April 2004, 09:01 GMT 10:01 UK
Cuba club all-comers
Cuba's Felix Savon celebrates victory
Cuba's Felix Savon is a giant of the the Olympic ring with three golds
Pugilism, an early form of boxing, first appeared as an Olympic sport in 668 BC.

Today's event is far removed from that ancient art, but is no less exciting and has consistently been one of the major attractions at the Olympics.

The modern sport was given a formal frame in 1857 when the Marquis of Queensbury put in place a set of rules and regulations.

Almost 50 years later it was admitted to the Olympic family of sports in 1904.

All the gold medallists in St Louis were American and included two titles for Oliver Kirk - a feat that has never been matched - and a heavyweight victory for Samuel Berger.

Berger set a precedent by turning professional soon after, a path that has since been followed by a host of medallists including Floyd Patterson, Muhammed Ali (as Cassius Clay), Joe Frazier, George Forman, Roy Jones Jr and Lennox Lewis.

That first Olympics also set a precedent in that the USA dominated the event as they have the medal table ever since, winning more than twice as many medals as their nearest rivals, Cuba.

However, the times are changing and in Sydney four years ago, for the first time since 1948, the USA failed to win a gold. In stark contrast Cuba led the charge with four titles, taking their overall tally of golds to 27.

Cuba first made a mark on Olympic boxing with silver medals in 1968 before winning three golds in 1972.

Another memorable rout in the ring saw the Communist country pick up seven golds in 1992, the most by any nation in a non-boycotted Olympics.

Taking in boycotts the Cubans have averaged 6.85 medals at each Olympics compared to the USA's 5.35.

The last known champion before the Games were abolished in 369 AD became the King of Armenia
The Cuban winners in 2000 included Felix Savon, who won a third successive title in the heavyweight division to join compatriot Teofilo Stevenson and Hungary's Laszlo Papp in an illustrious list of three-time winners,

The Olympics has provided a good grounding for future champions, but also some unlikely combatants, most notably in the 1908 middleweight final.

The winner, Great Britain's John Douglas, went on to captain England to an Ashes victory in Australia three years later.

Douglas may have been helped to the top step of the podium in no small part because of the tiredness of his opponent, Reg 'Snowy' Baker, who had also competed in the diving and swimming.

Such colourful characters may be a thing of the past, but the Olympic future of boxing is secure having survived recent pressure to drop the sport.

New safety measures were introduced to ensure gloves and head guards were of a higher quality and in Sydney fighting time was reduced from three rounds of three minutes to four of two.

It resulted in a truly memorable tournament, including Audley Harrison's gold, a first for Britain since 1968, although the USA may not have considered it so.

MEDAL TABLE (Top five; since 1904)
Country Gold Silver Bronze Total
USA 47 23 37 107
Cuba 27 14 7 48
Soviet Union 14 20 19 53
Italy 14 12 14 40
Great Britain 13 10 21 44

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